By Tali Rosen
If you've felt like you've hit a dead-end in your marriage. . . If you've asked yourself whether you have really chosen the right partner . . . If you've dreamed about love and happiness in marriage and instead you've succumbed to 'reality' . . . then the next pages present a new angle at looking at your relationship. They are based on a method of treating couples that is proving successful for many.
The theory behind the method says that each of us finds a partner who requires that we reveal and re-claim our whole self. That partner becomes the healer of past pains. Couples in which one partner is a mental health professional have participated in this workshop in Israel and told me about their experiences. Getting the Love You Want is not only the name of a book. And in order to find love, it is not only enough to read it, but it is definitely a beginning.
Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., author of Getting the Love You Want and Keeping the Love You Find, maintains that everyone can create a healing, loving relationship, often without ongoing therapy. The refreshing discovery is that his method is not just an interesting theory. It is a practical system with skills to practice and worksheets to assist you. It is possible to try to do the exercises in the books. But it is easier and more effective to learn the method within the framework of a workshop. The workshop is not lectures, not therapy, not group work, and not a cult! The workshop is a time and place in which you work, with the assumption that through working, you will move forward as an individual and as a couple. Hedy and Yumi Schleifer, she a psychotherapist and he an aerospace engineer and businessman, conduct workshops using Hendrix' method. The Schleifer's arrived in Israel bringing the Hendrix 'toolbox' with the intention of teaching us how to use it.
The Mission of Marriage and Romantic Attraction
The basic assumption of this method says that marriage not only has a goal, but it has a mission. The mission is to help each other to heal the childhood 'wounds' that absolutely everyone carries within. Childhood wounds not only include obvious hurts, but all of our childhood needs that were not filled. Each of us has wounds. You do not have to have been abused or neglected to be wounded. Even a happy childhood carries wounding. "Children," said Freud, "are creatures that are never satiated, and there is no parent in the world who can react perfectly to the changing needs of the children."
Dr. Hendrix maintains not only that the origin of our frustrations as adults is actually tied to unfulfilled needs or other hurts in our childhood, but that choosing our partner is a consequence of our unconscious desire to heal or repair those wounds. "Our unconscious seeks the person who, on the surface, looks the least capable of giving us what we need most, primarily because that person is very much like our parents or other childhood caretakers," explains Hedy Schleifer.
Yumi gives an example: "My father was never home because of his business. My mother was a nervous woman and I had a very intelligent aunt who treated me as if I were her student. When I was looking for a partner, I had, of course, a list of what I wanted. She should be beautiful and smart and many other things, but an important part that actually determined my ultimate choice was my unconscious that was looking for someone who resembled my childhood caretakers. My unconscious looked for someone who would not be at home all the time and who would want to be my teacher. This is what I knew from the past. I knew how to cope with someone like that, and from exactly that kind of person, I wanted what I did not get as a child. I wanted the love from somebody who was away all the time, and that was one thing that was so difficult for me in our relationship. I still wanted from my parents what they (and then my partner) were not able to give me."
The 'Old Brain'
Yumi, of course, was not conscious of this process while he was courting Hedy. Dr. Hendrix says that none of us are aware of that process because it comes out of our 'old brain', our unconscious. To differentiate, what we call the 'new brain' includes the part of our brain that is conscious, that makes decisions, that thinks, that organizes information, and creates ideas. The old brain guards our existence and monitors our environment, inside and out, in order to insure our survival. It recognizes only two conditions, "danger" and "safety." It is like a sensitive radar system that signals the alert. It's goal is survival and it will not take unnecessary chances. Like in war, an airplane that has been identified as a dangerous enemy will be attacked. An airplane that is determined to be safe, and identified as an ally, will be granted permission to enter our air space.